Dancers grow up being told to point their feet more, tuck their tailbone under and lift their chin. No matter how hard they work, there’s always something to improve. It’s easy to understand how all of this could lead some (if not many) dancers to think that they’re not quite enough, to look outside of themselves for answers and value – rather than right inside.
Mia Michaels is a choreographer whose work is prolific and widely beloved enough that she’s now a household name.
What might not be as well known is how she pushes dancers to be more than they ever thought they can be, simply through helping them to find what has always been inside of them. She has multiple creative interests that can work toward this end.
Michaels wants to help guide dancers to be “super-well rounded,” not fear auditions, and to really know and hone the instrument of their dancing body. Michaels explains how once they can do those things, they can start to trust and explore their body, and from that hone their artistry. “That’s what sets you apart from other dancers,” she affirms, “when people can get to know who you are.”
Aligned with that goal is her Mia Michaels Live (MML) events, dance conventions (although they’re more of an experience, she says) for ages 16 and up. “There’s a void of valuable convention experiences for higher caliber dancers ages 16 to pre-professional, and it’s such a crucial time for young dancers – to be seen, to get an agent, to find your voice as an artist,” explains Michaels. “They need something to help them get from A to B and B to C.” MML events, which she hopes will come to span the globe, could be just that for many young dancers.
Michaels is also creating a line of contemporary dance footwear. Apart from these initiatives, Michaels has projects in the works that can reach not only dancers but all people. She’s developing a plus-size line of fitness wear, for instance, as well writing a self-help book, A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys, to be released May 1, 2018. It comes “in and out” of stories from her life, she explains.
“[The book] is about standing in your own truth, and not being afraid to stand out,” Michaels shares. It will launch at a live event, and she’s excited about what new opportunities and paths could emerge after that. As for choreographing, she says that it’s a bit on the “back burner” at the moment. She’s enjoying delving into new kinds of work and creative endeavors. “You have to keep evolving, keep learning,” she asserts.
That seems to be at the foundation of everything that she is creating and sharing with the world. She’s happy to also, with all of that, pay forward what she has experienced and achieved. She is pleased to help young dancers “stand in their own truth,” just as she’s learned to stand in her own. She describes how all great artists have been people who shared who they are through their work, and created something memorable through that.
“Everyone has the potential to be a legend….everyone has their story,” Michaels says. “It’s my job to bring that out.” She lays out how there are so many wonderful dancers out there who keep auditioning and keep getting cut, and they don’t understand why. She wants to help dance students avoid that position through finding that artist inside, who can truly tell their own story.
Recent trips to India, where she’s been working with film dancers, demonstrate this dynamic. “At a certain level there, they call you a ‘master’,” she says. “The culture is incredible, and they have a whole other way of thinking about dance and the body.” Michaels describes how dancers were bowing at her feet, and the love offered nearly brought her to tears. It seems like what she’s given has come full-circle.
“It’s a really cool time [for me], a time to nurture and give back,” Michaels shares. “Up until now, it’s been all about me, my career. Now I get to give back, to be a mom, in a way.”
Mamma Mia (as she also called herself), thanks for continuing to share and give what is uniquely you – and inspiring us to do the same.
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.